In a recent press briefing at State House, President Hakainde Hichilema’s use of graphs to depict the country’s economy has drawn criticism from the leader of the Socialist Party, Fred M’membe. M’membe agrees with Chawama Catholic Church Parish Priest Father Anthony Salangeta’s questioning of the graphs, arguing that they fail to provide a complete picture of Zambia’s economic situation.
Dr. M’membe expresses concern over the President’s focus on leadership as the main driver of changes in Zambia’s Gross Domestic Product (GDP) levels since the 1970s. He emphasizes that prioritizing GDP growth does not necessarily guarantee the well-being of citizens. During his appearance on the “Let the People Talk” program on Phoenix FM, Dr. M’membe asserts that citizens are more interested in tangible improvements in their living conditions rather than complicated theories.
Dr. M’membe further states that it is unjust for the entire ruling United Party for National Development (UPND) system, including the President, to harshly criticize Father Salangeta for questioning the graphs. He believes that religious leaders have the right to participate in the country’s affairs and raise concerns that affect the people. Dr. M’membe also criticizes the double standard applied to religious and traditional leaders, where their support for politicians is accepted while their criticisms are dismissed as political.
Father Salangeta, who has come under attack for his remarks, is accused of misrepresenting President Hichilema during a mass service. The clergyman allegedly mocked the President’s use of graphs during a press briefing on May 19, 2023, claiming that “people will not eat graphs.” These sentiments have sparked anger among the clergy, who argue that Father Salangeta’s comments undermine the church’s integrity.
Reacting to Father Salangeta’s statements, Reverend William Njombo, the General Overseer of Christ Riches Church, expressed disappointment in the clergyman’s words, calling them misplaced and an indictment on the church. Rev. Njombo highlights the importance of the New Dawn administration’s efforts to provide free education and bursaries to empower vulnerable citizens and alleviate poverty.
Reverend William Njombo, the General Overseer of Christ Riches Church, expressed disappointment in Father Salangeta’s remarks, considering them misplaced and an indictment on the church. He believed that the clergy should focus on their primary role of offering spiritual guidance to political leaders rather than engaging in political opposition. Rev. Njombo highlighted the significance of the New Dawn administration’s efforts to provide free education and bursaries, emphasizing that these initiatives were empowering vulnerable citizens and addressing the issue of poverty.
Similarly, UPND Spokesperson Cornelius Mweetwa voiced his disapproval of Father Salangeta’s comments. Mweetwa emphasized the importance of the values and principles of Zambia as a Christian nation, which rely on the guidance provided by men and women of God from the pulpit. He expressed concern over a clergyman using demeaning language towards the Head of State, suggesting that it was contrary to the role of religious leaders to lead and unify the country. Mweetwa highlighted that he did not want the nation to return to the days when the country had Christians supporting a specific President, indicating his desire for a more inclusive and unified approach.
Both Reverend Njombo and Mweetwa shared the view that clergymen should refrain from engaging in political opposition and focus on their spiritual duties. They believed that religious leaders had a responsibility to offer guidance and support to political leaders while unifying the nation. Their perspectives highlighted the potential tension between the role of clergy as spiritual advisors and their involvement in political discourse, particularly when it comes to criticizing or questioning political decisions or actions.